Saints alive after ref gets shirty over jersey clash
St Pats' Athletic 3 Sligo Rovers 1
A game of two halves. A game of two teams in St Patrick's Athletic jerseys. And, ultimately, a result that sent the Inchicore natives home unhappy after an unusual night at Richmond Park.
The half-hour delay forced by a stand-off over kits and the pernickety nature of referee Anthony Buttimer delivered an anti-climactic start to the new campaign and for the majority of the crowd it didn't seem to be getting any better as the Saints struggled to get into their rhythm with Sligo, wearing their opposition's away shirts, belying their underdog status.
That all changed in a frenetic six-minute period in the second half where three rapid strikes from the Dubliners -- two from American Ryan Guy -- put a comfortable look on the scoreline which was at odds with how the game looked to be developing.
Sligo may have been in unfamiliar jerseys, with the exception of close season signing from the Saints Anto Murphy, but it was the hosts who were looking increasingly uncomfortable before the interval.
One of the talking points in the off season was how John McDonnell would accommodate a number of star names at Inchicore and on this occasion Michael Keane was left benched with Gary Dempsey and Keith Fahey in the centre of the park.
In the opening exchanges, though, it was a Sligo side with seven new faces that looked a more coherent unit with a 4-5-1 formation, featuring Benin international, Romauld Boco playing just off lone frontman Faz Kudozovic.
However, it was their centre half Jamie McKenzie that was getting into the right attacking positions when he ventured forward for set plays and it was his alertness that put the Bit'O'Red ahead in the 26th minute when he rounded Barry Ryan and converted with Conor O'Grady providing the assist.
Sligo had deserved that but almost relinquished their lead immediately with Pat Jennings making a fine save from Dempsey who had been released by a superb Mark Quigley pass.
Penetration was lacking from the Dubliners despite that brief flicker and there were clearly stern words to be had at the break, particularly as Kudozovic nearly doubled the Sligo advantage before the whistle.
That talk obviously worked for Pat's who stepped it up a gear and equalised on the hour when Jamie Harris headed home Bobby Ryan's cross.
Within four minutes they were ahead after a fine move culminating with Jennings caught off guard by a clever flicked header from Guy. Barely had the game kicked off when Jennings was picking the ball out of the net again with the confident Guy smashing a loose ball into the top corner of the net in a crowded area.
Shell-shocked Sligo could not recover from the setback as the game petered to an inevitable conclusion and a somewhat one-sided swapping of jerseys.
St Patrick's Athletic -- Ryan, Lynch, O'Cearuill, Harris, Partridge; Guy, Fahey, Dempsey, Ryan (Byrne 63); Quigley (Kirby 85), O'Neill (Brennan 90)
Sligo Rovers -- Jennings; Cretaro, Almeida, McKenzie, Butler; Murphy (Curran 81), Moore (Judge 63), O'Grady, Doherty (Cash 66), Boco; Kudozovic.
REF -- A Buttimer.